I’ll usually be the first to criticize the media. They give us all plenty of reasons to be critical of them.
But, generally, I won’t be among the many to attack them for concentrating and reporting on only the “negative” stories. I won’t because — and I’ve seen this first hand — that’s all the public wants to hear about. Despite what anyone says, very few people really want to see an uplifting headline. At the very least, we tire of discussing the positive much more quickly than the negative. It’s part of the human condition. I can’t explain it, but it’s there. And we all share the blame. We’ve gotta face ourselves, we can’t pawn it all off on the media.
If you’re driving down the road and you see paramedics crowded around some guy lying motionless on the side of the street, you’re likely to slow down, crane your neck and gawk. When you get home you’ll probably tell your spouse about what you saw. You might even bring it up the next day at work. Now, if you’re driving down the road and you see some healthy guy jogging on the sidewalk, you definitely won’t rubberneck and say, “Wow look at this positive image of a man making a good decision! Fascinating!” When you get home you won’t tell anyone about it. The next day at work you won’t launch into this inspirational story about fitness and health. So if the guy is dead on the sidewalk, you’ll talk about it. If he’s alive and healthy, you won’t. There’s no excuse for it either. It’s not like the dead guy is a more unusual story. People die every day. In fact, everyone dies. Not everyone jogs. Jogging is statistically rarer than dying. But I won’t make it into your conversation if I jog. Unless I get run over by a semi in the process. See. We’re all just as bad as the news anchors and producers. “If it bleeds it leads”. And that goes for everyone.
I bring this up because of something I’ve noticed leading up to the Super Bowl. I see and hear a lot of people complaining that they’re completely and totally sick of hearing about how the Harbaugh brothers will be coaching against each other. In fact, people started complaining about the Harbaugh story before the the two minute warning in the New England game. The public has officially lost interest in this, and it hasn’t even been a week. Yet millions of folks are still gabbing about Manti Te’o. Seemingly very few have tired of discussing Lance Armstrong. Hell, with the Ravens in the Super Bowl many have delighted in discussing Ray Lewis’ trouble with the law. And that was 13 years ago. So death, drugs, deception, and we’re interested. Yet we have lost our patience with this truly INCREDIBLE and FASCINATING story about the Harbaughs. The “Harbowl” is a once in a lifetime sort of thing. I mean, think about it. What are the chances that two brothers would grow up and coach against each other in the freaking Super Bowl? Anyone who has a brother must be able to appreciate how amazing this is. We could live another 80 years and we probably won’t ever see this again. A guy lies about his girlfriend? Who cares? That happens every day. An athlete does steroids? There is nothing even remotely unusual about that. Two brothers share a room and a dream and 40 years later are on opposite sidelines on the biggest stage in the sports world? Now THAT’S a story. If this was a movie I wouldn’t like it because I’d say the plot was far too unbelievable. This is easily one of the most awe inspiring events in the history of American sports. Except nobody wants to hear about it. Yet we have an insatiable appetite for discussing and analyzing the stupid, dull, utterly boring details about a cyclist’s drug use and a linebacker’s cyber girlfriend.
I’ve personally experienced the wrath of people when you don’t satiate their hunger for negativity and gossip. A year or two ago I spent 2 hours on my radio show talking about Medal of Honor recipients and reading tales of their heroism. I then spent that evening fielding emails from listeners who wanted to inform me that they’ve never been more bored in their life. A few days ago I geeked out for a solid twenty minutes about some of the miraculous discoveries astronomers have made recently. Again, according to the feedback, I couldn’t have chosen a more uninteresting topic.
So attack the media for many things, by all means. But this can’t be one of them.
They might tell us about the dead guy in the street, but we’re the ones who won’t watch unless they do.